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Nursing homes now account for half of all Illinois coronavirus deaths; protesters gather at Pritzker’s house

Nursing homes reported 1,583 new coronavirus cases and 395 new deaths in the past week, bringing a Sun-Times count of state totals to 2,368 deaths and 14,799 confirmed cases.

An activist protests outside Gov. Pritzker’s Chicago home demanding those in long-term care facilities get resources amid the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 22, 2020.
An activist protests outside Gov. Pritzker’s Chicago home demanding those in long-term care facilities get resources amid the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, May 22, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Nursing homes now account for more than half of all coronavirus deaths in Illinois, according to a data analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times.

That updated tally came as a dozen people gathered Friday at Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Chicago home to protest his oversight of long-term care facilities.

Nursing homes reported 1,583 new COVID-19 cases and 395 new deaths in the past week, according to data released Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

A Sun-Times count of state totals stands at 2,368 deaths and 14,799 confirmed cases at long-term care facilities since the pandemic started. The figures released by the state show lower totals, however, because officials have stopped including in their public data 74 facilities that have not had a new case in the past 28 days, an IDPH spokeswoman said Friday.

Members of Chicago ADAPT, a disability rights advocacy group, called on Pritzker to evacuate nursing homes and put stronger measures in place to protect residents.

“I have been in contact with staff and other residents infected with the virus and yet I have not been tested,” said Lyndsay Sullivan, a Chicago nursing facility resident and ADAPT member. “I have not been provided adequate protective gear. I continue to have a roommate who also has not been tested.”

The group, many in wheelchairs, brought a coffin — which police seized. Officers warned demonstrators to disperse, and they did, about an hour after arriving. As they left, they chanted “we will be back.”

Chicago ADAPT urged Pritzker to declare an emergency at long-term care facilities and use the National Guard to move residents to hotels and other locations where better social distancing is possible. The group also demanded the governor limit congregate settings to one person per living unit — essentially eliminating roommates — and ensure testing for all residents and staff.

The governor’s press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh, said in a statement that Pritzker’s administration has “always listened to advocates who come to us with serious input for discussion on how to protect our most vulnerable residents.”

“But moving medically fragile people from their homes and placing them into hotels entirely unequipped to care for them, is not something public health experts endorse. Instead, the administration has worked to scale up testing at our congregate facilities, provide PPE to employees, and train them in infection control and best practices. Families are free to move their loved ones home if they see fit,” Abudayyeh said.

Despite large increases in cases and deaths this week, the spread at long-term care facilities appears to have slowed, with 822 fewer cases and 60 fewer deaths reported in the past week than the previous one-week period.

The most new cases reported this week, 78, came at Symphony of South Shore, which now has 155 cases and 19 deaths.

Meadowbrook Manor of Bolingbrook reported the most deaths in the past week, with 12 new fatalities, now up to 38 in all — the most of any home in the state.

The facility with the most confirmed cases remains Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest, where 268 people have tested positive and six have died.